Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Elizabeth's is now The Point Market

It was just a few days ago that I posted my piece on Pleasure Point in Santa Cruz and mentioned Elizabeth's Market located right on East Cliff Drive near the top of the Point.  You can't miss it, except now it is called The Point Market. The people who made Elizabeth's so great are still involved, but things have gotten even better, so I thought I should post up.

First of all, they are open all day from 7AM to 8PM with a great offering from their kitchen.  If you need to fuel up in the middle of a surf session, this is the place to go.  No need to pack up the gear and get in the car.  They also have a full selection of beer, wine and soda.  24oz PBR, check.  Prefer something a bit more refined - they got that too.  They are also serving up Santa Cruz Roasting Company coffee, so you know the grinds are good.  What else?  A small selection of grocery store type items including snacks, dogs, mustard, produce and more.  Check it out if you forgot something for your barbecue.

They also sell surf accessories.  Forget the wax or snap a leash?  Stop in at The Point Market.  They even have an FCS fin key behind the register that you can borrow if you need to switch out your fins.  And coming soon in the adjacent garage will be a surfboard consignment shop.  Snap your fish and the surf is epic?  No worries - you can head in and buy a new stick.  They even have a ATM inside so you can get the cash.  And if you don't want to buy a new board, ask about the rentals.  Coming soon - restrictions will apply (to keep the locals happy of those really good days).

They have a little of everything, so go check them out.  We love this little place, and it is now better than ever.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Pleasure Point. A Place Well Named.

Looking up Pleasure Point at Sewer, 1st and 2nd Peak from 38th Avenue.

It has been a while since I last spent much time over near Pleasure Point.  I lived there for 5 years, on Palisades Avenue, near Lake Moran and the eucalyptus wind break that marks the western border of the point.  But that was nearly a decade ago, and since then it has been a rare moment that I have found myself over on the east side.  It just seemed so far away, and if I am going to get in my car, I mind as well drive to San Francisco or Tahoe even.  But these past few weeks, I have found my self checking out the surf and riding my Rick out at First Peak on a somewhat regular basis.  I even picked off a few good days at Rockview and Sewer Peak early on.  But, then again, this is not really about the surfing.

Small day at Rockview with a good view of the palm.
I think it was on my third day over there, within a week, that I first felt the tinge of nostalgia.  My 39 week pregnant wife and I had just finished a doctor's appointment and were filling the car up with gas when she asked if the Chill Out served breakfast burritos all day.  They certainly do.  A first she claimed it was silly to go "all the way over there," just to fulfill her urge for a damned good breakfast treat.  See, we don't often find ourselves on the east side, because we live on the west side, and those four miles between us often seem insurmountable.  I mean, we have everything we need over here, with good foods, beautiful walks, downtown to our left, west cliff out front, the mountains at our back and the open coast on our right.  But I thought, well I could drive down the point, check out the waves, and be a great husband all at one time.  Plus, as my wife pointed out, the Verve Coffee shop is right next door.

Sewer Peak and Rockview offering up small, punchy peaks.

One thing that we noticed as we sipped on a decaf latte and some truly robust El Salvadorian French pressed goodness (you do need to check their coffee out), is how active the corner of Portola and 41st were just before noon on a Wednesday.  The West Side commercial zones seem to be quite a bit quieter mid day and just not as vibrant.  It may just be the difference between foot traffic and car traffic.  Over on the east side surfers show up after a session at the Hook or the Point for a cup of joe, a perusal of the surf and skate shops, or to grab some mid day sushi.  And then there are all the locals just cruising to Coffeetopia or Pink Godzilla to support the people who have been serving them the goods for decades.  The new sit down Pleasure Pizza is drawing folks across the intersection from the Point as well.  Regardless of their reasons, there were folks out and about on this mid week morning.  Oh, and I had noticed that the surf looked pretty fun out on the point.

Low tide days expose the inner reef adding some whumpf to the session.  Good lined up walls peel through 1st and 2nd Peak.

On my fourth day, I met up with my buddy Eddie on a Saturday morning.  We were at the end of Rockview checking out the surf, and the weekend crowds.  He was not so sure about getting in.  Seven guys here, six over there, and a bunch more down there.  As we watched the crowds grow, his window of opportunity was shrinking, and he admitted that he was suddenly more interested in eating breakfast instead of surfing.  I can understand that, but we did not think we would have time for the Cliff Cafe.  The food is good, but the seating is tight.  So I told him about Paula's, where a basic breakfast of eggs, potatoes and bread, along with a coffee puts you back about $3.50.  Of course, you can add more on to it than that, but it is really not as much about the food as about the atmosphere.  No cell phones allowed.  A stack of Surfer's Journal dating back years.  An old van out front that has a 70's-esque family camping and dining set up inside of it.  And the fact that you need to wait and hour longer for them to open on days when the swell is pumping.  It truly is a throwback to the days of surfer eats shacks.    And it is the type of joint where someone may ask you about your old school board that is sticking out of the back of your truck.  It was the perfect prelude to a fun day of surf.

Pleasure Point is really just a long series of submerged slabs.  This one still has some sinking to do.  Low tide always exposes the coolest parts of the reef.

While I said that I lived over on the Point for several years a way back, that is only kind of true.  I did reside there.  And I did spend plenty of time in the water.  All up in down the point, but mostly out out Sewers.  And even though I got to know plenty of the folks out in the water, and had several good friends that lived in the area, I was never really part of the greater community.  This community is what I have been noticing recently.  A pair of mothers with their five year olds, spending a low tide day on the beach and taking turns in the surf.  Teenagers having a fun, if not romantic, breakfast together at Paula's.  Families, and groups of families walking along East Cliff Drive, watching the surf.  The houses are packed close together forcing you to know your neighbor and making it easy to go next door to borrow some sugar or the clothes dryer when your's break down.  The guy you see in the line up happens to make the best lattes, or own the place you like to get grab a slice.  This, I realize, is one of the things that I like about Pleasure Point.  So in a sense, I guess, I never really lived there, as my life never really became engrained there.  Rather I spent a few years there getting to know the culture and getting a taste of it.  But I never set my roots in, like so many families have done.

Drive to the end of Rockview Avenue, climb down the embankment and you'll be at the top of the point.  Time to search for sea shells and polished stones.

Day 5.  Wow.  I was not really expecting much.  There was a little bit of north wind swell in the water.  But I did not think any of that would be wrapping all the way down and around the corner of the bay and onto the Point.  There was a little bit of south ground swell, but this was only going to be a foot or, at most, two.  What I did not figure in was the perfect combination of two.  Somehow that wind swell made it to the Point, and wedged with the south, offering up fun shoulder high peaks that had a soft take off followed soon by a steep fast wall.  Simply, it was a fun day on the water.  Perhaps it was the perfect tide, or the fact that the crowd was nearly non existent, but my fifth day sealed the deal.  We were expecting our baby any day, and I did not have time to go searching for waves, driving up and down the coast, not making a decision about where to get in.  I needed to make a quick accurate stab and get my hour of water time.  I learned that perhaps one of the best bets during the summer months is my Rick and the Point.  A perfect combination to ensure a few waves and some good paddling.

Small and clean is the name of the game for longboard days.

This past February, my wife and I somehow found ourselves over around the O'neil House, about half way down the point to 41st Ave and The Hook.  Not sure what our plans where, or why we were in the area, but the rain had seemed to stop, and we thought it would be nice to go for a walk.  The tide was out.  Way out, and plenty of beach sand and reef was exposed.  So we headed down the steps, and I realized I had yet to check out the seawall that went in several years ago.  I recall the debate over this structure starting when I lived on Palisades.  Would it ruin the surf?  Or just look plain ugly?  Was it worth the cost?  Not sure how the dust settled over the whole ordeal, but it went in a few years back.  And it looks great.  Blended well into the natural cliffs, with several new stairways leading to the beach (bet the old school locals hated that).  What really stuck out was all the food holds and access points built into the wall, just like what naturally occurs in the Santa Cruz mud stone.  Brilliant.  And seeing that East Cliff Drive is still there, it must be doing its job.  And another plus I have notices recently is how the cliff is no longer a surf board graveyard.  The engineers figured out how to create an eddy to keep boards just off the cliffs.  So it can't be all bad.

February storm clouds roll in over the bay.

We got a little burst of swell and calm winds a few days after our baby's due date, so I headed down to the beaches with some friends and found fun surf.  It was nice, and a bit more of an active type of surfing than First Peak.  Still, when I checked the beaches the next day, it seemed like the chop was back up.  With time short, knowing my wife could go into labor any time, I headed back to the point for day six.  The tide was very low, exposing the reef.  The surf also looked quite small and a bit drained out.  I decided that I should paddle out regardless, as this might be my last chance for quite some time.  Again I was shocked.  Sewer Peak had a legitimate head high wave.  I thought - too bad I did not grab my short board.  Being on my log, I stayed at First and Second Peak, and had just the right amount of challenge.  The tide was allowing the waves to draw up hard on the reef and throw over with some juice.  Another face of the wave, and a bit more demanding than the slow sliders of my last visit.

The Seawall extends all the way down to the green O'neil house.  At low tide the beach extends all they way beyond 41st Avenue

Some day you may find your self over on Pleasure Point checking out the surf and the scene.  Surf bums checking out the waves and critiquing ever ride.  Families strolling East Cliff Drive working on a cup of coffee.  College kids from the midwest paddling out for their first time at 38th.  There is plenty going on both in and out of the water.  And you may start wanting your own cup of coffee, or a breakfast burrito.  No need to get back in the car, as Elizabeth's Market (edit: now it is The Point Market) has a variety of hot and cold food on offer to tide you over until your next meal.  This small, family owned shack of a shop feels just about right, tucked into the curve of the Point.  They even have board wax for sale.  Just get there early, as these guys like to close up shop in the mid afternoon and go for a surf themselves.

Elizabeth's Market has what you need.  Caffeine, Fuel and Wax.

The day my wife went into labor was pretty amazing.  The day before it was a nice 87F at the Farmer's Market in Santa Cruz.  It never really cooled (well, by SC standards) to much that evening and the day broke sunny.  No fog.  Not one iota.  We had a lazy morning, hanging out, talking about what we though was to come soon..  When she headed acupuncture, I headed east.  With my longboard again.  At 9:30 in the morning it was sunny and warm.  Hot even.  I found myself wondering why I had on booties.  Or a full suit even.  The waves were glassy, and just big enough to getting the glide going.  It was not much, but it certainly was fun.  And toasty.  On the way home I got a call from my wife.  She was headed to yoga.  And she had been have contractions since we parted this morning.  Something was about to change.

The seawall and new stairs at the curve in the point makes for easy access.

Today my son is one week old.  Things are going well, and we really feel confident, especially compared to yesterday.  Actually, I am starting to learn that there are going to be good days and not so good days.  With family in town to cook, clean and generally provide support, my wife turned to me and simply said, "go surf."  After just a bit of deliberation, I did as I was told.  With wind on the open water and little to no surf around, I grabbed my Rick and headed east.  And the magic was undeniable.  What was supposed to be a cool foggy day of paddling around flat water quickly changed to warm water, no breeze, hot air and a fun surf kind of morning.  And any sense of tension, apprehension or concern for my new boy was lifted away as I started the cycle of paddle, stand, cruise, paddle.  It really only took an hour for me to start missing my family at home, so I took a few more waves and headed it.  The day was just stellar.

Getting ready for the long paddle out to the peak.

When I started writing this piece, I thought I was writing about nostalgia for a place, but as I worked through it I realized it was something else.  Perhaps it is nostalgia for being a part of a community.  But that cannot be it, because I am a part of a community.  Perhaps it is a metaphor for the feeling "life is good."  Or just maybe, a sunny day over on the Point with good eats and playful surf is just that.  Life is good.  Regardless, it is certainly a spot worth visiting.  Get on over there and paddle out for a few waves. Walk along the beach under the sea wall at low tide.  Search for sea shells and polished stones in the reef.   Walk the path under the eucalyptus along Lake Moran.  Or just swing in somewhere for some tasty grub and a hot cup of Joe.

38th Avenue.  Beginner friendly and a very short paddle out.


A peak to share in not the most consistent of breaks around the Point. 

Okay.  So I have been planning to go back and treat this like something I would write.  Review, edit, rewrite, revise, whatever.  To make it read well.  But I've learned another thing about fatherhood.  It takes time.  A whole bunch of it.  So, I am going to let it sit how its written.  Our son is now nearly six weeks old.  A lot has changed.  And  lot has been learned.  Much about parenting and little about life.  I think what I was really trying to get to when I thought about the Point is that is not a bad place to bring up a family or be a member of the community.  It is also not such a bad place to catch some waves.  I've been pretty lucky the past five weeks, getting in some good surf from time to time, and finding a number of days to just get out and paddle around.  Many of those days have been at the point.  When the swell has been running, I have tried to ferret out some less crowded and more powerful surf.  Some days with more luck than others.  But when the waves were expected to be marginal, I grabbed the long board and headed east.  And on average, those have been the best surf sessions.

Getting into the surf zone at 38th Avenue.
Perhaps is just simply this.  It is a comfort zone kind of thing.  Several times in the last month I have made plans in the evening, with a buddy, to go surfing the next day.  Wether it was a first light, late morning or early afternoon thing - it never really mattered.  I have learned that I don't make the plans.  My son does.  And I have to live my life around that.  So if I missed the morning glass, or the tide filled in just a bit too much for the place I planned to go, I needed a fall back plan.  Some where that would make me happy.  Give me a sense that it was worth leaving my boy for a few hours.  A guaranteed hit. It never needed to be epic, just fun.  And it took some visits to remember that this could be one of those places.

2nd Peak offers up some long slow rollers, perfect for working on your nose ride.